The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s entire capital bureau has resigned, according to a Newspaper Guild campaign protesting Plain Dealer newsroom cuts. Save The Plain Dealer spokesman and local Guild president Harlan Spector told The Poynter Institute in December 2012 that impending changes planned by owner Advance Publications will reduce the paper’s Guild staff from 168 to 110.
“This week, Book Editor Karen Long, Features Editor Debbie Van Tassel and Columbus Bureau Reporter Joe Guillen gave notice,” Save The Plain Dealer wrote on January 2. “Last month, Columbus Bureau Chief Reggie Fields resigned (The paper is down to one reporter in Columbus).”
Guillen posted a message to his personal Twitter account on January 11 indicating it was his final day at the Plain Dealer and directing followers to Plain Dealer reporter Brandon Blackwell for future statehouse coverage.
Also on January 11, Save The Plain Dealer wrote that “the PD’s Columbus bureau lost its last reporter when Aaron Marshall resigned this week for a better job. That makes three journalists who have resigned from the Columbus bureau since late November.”
Concerned that Advance was planning to cut the print edition to three days a week as the company has done in New Orleans and other cities, Newspaper Guild members at the Plain Dealer launched a Change.org petition and ad campaign in November 2012 encouraging Clevelanders “to tell [Advance chairman] Steven Newhouse and Advance Publications not to do to Cleveland what they’ve done to other cities.”
“”What’s coming is not good. It may be good for our out-of-town owners, but it benefits no one in Northeast Ohio,” Spector told a fellow Plain Dealer reporter for a November 9, 2012 story announcing the Save The Plain Dealer campaign.
The Newspaper Guild is a division of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). A Newspaper Guild report from January 3 noted that Spector and the Save The Plain Dealer campaign have been aided in their efforts by the CWA Defense Fund.
“We think that by deploying those journalists to produce a really incredible website and great print editions three times a week we can really focus on capturing the growth in digital … and at the same time serve our print audience with really great newspapers,” Newhouse told Poynter in August 2012 regarding the company’s changes in New Orleans.
Poynter noted that “Advance’s websites have been criticized widely for their garish colors, cookie-cutter templates and poor ease of use,” but Newhouse pointed to an April 2012 report from The Media Audit listing Advance properties as some of the most-visited local media websites in the country.
After New Orleans residents unsuccessfully begged Advance to sell The Times-Picayune instead of abandoning its seven-day print schedule, ”The Advocate in Baton Rouge has announced it will launch a daily New Orleans edition, and four online news sites plus a just-announced nonprofit online news site have made plans to compete with Advance’s soon-to-be-digitally focused operation for local eyeballs and dollars,” Poynter wrote.
On December 11, 2012, Poynter reported, “Cleveland Plain Dealer Guild members today ratified a proposed six-year contract that raises salaries by 8 percent and protects employees from staff cuts through early 2019; the raise takes effect after 58 positions are eliminated in 2013, a cut that eliminates about one-third of the newsroom.”